A string quartet plays in the background as I listen to a famous New Age guru perform a wedding ceremony on a Malibu cliff.
The guru is marrying two friends of mine who met in an acting class last year. She turns to the groom and launches into a spiel about how from now on, he's going to make the bride's "heart his home." That's when I start to lose it. I feel the Malibu sun warming my shoulders and melting all my cynicism into a pool of mush. I grip my girlfriend's hand for support but she's doing worse than I am, wiping her teary eyes on a scarf.
"I'm not crying for them," she whispers. "I'm crying for me. No one's going to make my heart their home." "I know," I confess. "Someone might make my heart their apartment, but they'll ruin the carpets and insist on a month-to-month lease."
We're giggling until we get some dirty looks and regain our composure. The guru goes on about God and love and partnership and I'm still thinking about home. I'm thinking, in particular, about a guy who invited me to a dinner party recently at his home. He's the kind of guy I'm popular with these days, in his late 30's and desperate to get married to appease his mother or squelch any uncomfortable rumors about his sexuality.
His apartment displayed the sort of Spartan living that makes a jail cell look like a suite at the Ritz. I happened to see his bedroom on an apartment tour. A mattress sat on the floor, across from a TV teetering precariously on a milk crate. A lone, dingy white sheet clung to the bed. I'm no Martha Stewart, but would it kill him to get a top sheet? A plant? If he made my heart his home, would it start to look a little like this? The guru asks the bride to recite the vows she has written. They're beautiful. "I'm so grateful you chose me, and that you choose me every day," she says, gripping a bouquet of yellow flowers.
My friend squeezes my hand and I remember that other people crying always makes me cry and now the whole place is a sniffling mess.
This is a big year for weddings, the millennial year. My peers are starting to marry off in droves. I'll be a bridesmaid in September and I already have the seafoam-green dress to prove it. I don't know how I feel about weddings, although I'm always honored to be a part of them. My family's on the poor side and I'm on the practical side so I can only imagine doing the Vegas thing myself.It's cooling off as the groom lifts the bride's veil and they kiss.
The last thing I want to be is the single, bitter wedding guest. What saves me from that hideous plight is my total ambivalence about the whole thing. They say girls fantasize about white dresses, flowers and a big production, but I only seem to yearn for the sweet excesses of a bachelor party.
The wedding guests move to outdoor tables and my friends and I talk about what kind of wedding we'd like. They ask me if I'd like a Jewish wedding. I say a date with a top sheet might be a good start, let's not get ahead of ourselves.
I strike up a conversation on the dance floor with a teacher from Dallas because I'll do anything to not dance at weddings. He's nice. I wonder briefly how he'd feel about making my heart his home. He makes his rental car his home and leaves early to catch a flight back to Dallas. Even if you're not pining to get married, weddings can make you needy and sappy and lonely, even for teachers from Texas.
The bride gets up to sing "My Funny Valentine" for her new husband. He loves it when she sings and her voice is clear, controlled and perfect.
To comfort myself, I recall an elderly couple I once saw eating their early-bird specials in total silence, broken only by the defeated slurping of vegetable beef soup.
Don't feel bad, I tell myself. One day it's flowers and vows, the next it's couples counseling and a minivan. One day it's grilled salmon and wedding cake, the next it's vegetable beef soup.
Married people may be happier or they may not. There's all kinds of loneliness and just as many forms of contentment. I read Richard Cory. I know there's no way to tell from the outside who is truly happy. Somewhere, I imagine, the bride is carefully hanging up her dress and smoothing it on the hanger. She's giggling every time she says the word "husband."
My friends and I climb into our car. The dirt road back to the freeway is long and bumpy, and we dish about the teacher and sing from the back seat all the way down.